A religious nature: Philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Islam and the environment

By | September 1, 2015

In this interview, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a university professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, talks with the Bulletin’s Elisabeth Eaves about Islam and the environment. Nasr turned to philosophy after first studying physics as an undergraduate, and began writing on environmental issues in the 1960s. He describes how both the Koran, Islam’s holy book, and the hadith, the recorded ways and sayings of Mohammed, make references to the need to protect nature. The Koranic verse most often cited on the environment, he says, is the one in which God chooses man as his khalifa, meaning "vice-regent," making him the guardian of God’s creation. In Muslim countries, Nasr says, it’s mostly individuals and nongovernmental organizations that push environmental issues, rather than political or religious leaders. He observes that attitudes to water use are shaped by a dry climate, whether in Saudi Arabia or California, and relates how his recent trip to the Vatican came about.

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